Under mounting pressure, Henry says reopening B.C. will happen ‘safely, slowly, methodically’

A man walks past portraits of Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry on a boarded up business in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardA man walks past portraits of Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry on a boarded up business in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian citizen Dale Johnston of South Surrey and US citizen Diane Sumi of Edmonds, Washington are seen at the border of the two countries in Langley, B.C. Friday, May 1, 2020. Johnston and Sumi who have been dating for three and a half years have been separated from being together since the borders were closed due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardCanadian citizen Dale Johnston of South Surrey and US citizen Diane Sumi of Edmonds, Washington are seen at the border of the two countries in Langley, B.C. Friday, May 1, 2020. Johnston and Sumi who have been dating for three and a half years have been separated from being together since the borders were closed due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Artist Lukas Lundberg pauses to talk to a passerby while working on a painting of Wonder Woman depicted as a doctor on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckArtist Lukas Lundberg pauses to talk to a passerby while working on a painting of Wonder Woman depicted as a doctor on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A grocery store security guard takes peoples temperatures prior to allowing them into the store in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardA grocery store security guard takes peoples temperatures prior to allowing them into the store in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As British Columbians eagerly await specifics on how restrictions will be eased in coming months, B.C.’s top doctor has the difficult task – envious to few – in finding the balance of supporting business and social needs while maintaining safety.

The biggest concern for provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to consider is ensuring the province won’t see a resurgence of cases, which could lead to high rates of hospitalizations and puts older demographics and those with underlying health conditions at risk.

Over several news conferences in recent weeks, Henry has voiced that while she understands many are feeling fatigue due to weeks-turned-into-months of social restrictions all of that hard work to flatten the curve could be undone – and rather quickly – if easing restrictions isn’t backed by evidence-based and thoughtful planning.

ALSO READ: Broadening social circles will look different based on health risks, Henry says

“We will not move forward with opening up different sectors until we’re ready, until we’re sure that we have a plan that is workable, and make sure we have these plans and precautions in place,” she told reporters on Saturday (May 2).

Re-opening will likely include “engineering controls” or physical barriers such as Plexiglass walls, Henry explained, as well as personal protective equipment for employees and caps on the number of people allowed inside a store or facility to maintain two metres of physical distancing.

While Henry and Premier John Horgan have hinted that restaurants could be one of the first industries to be re-opened, there are a number of sectors that will likely have to wait, specifically casinos.

“It’s certainly not in the first phase of what I’m considering or what we’re considering in terms of of how do we get things moving again in our economy and in our social structures and such,” Henry said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Horgan said earlier this week that in-classroom teaching won’t resume until September.

Poultry plants, care homes remain top concerns in weeks ahead

Each province has started taking strides to developing plans to re-open businesses.

In Prince Edward Island, gatherings up to five people from different households are now allowed, as well as non-contact outdoor recreational activities.

Garden centres, automatic car washes and some workplaces will be restarting Monday in Ontario.

In New Brunswick, post-secondary students are back in physical classrooms. Social contact restrictions have been eased to allow two families to meet in person at a time.

ALSO READ: Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’

Outside of Montreal, retail stores will open back up Monday while businesses located within the city will do the same on May 11. Quebec has seen the highest number of cases and fatalities due to COVID-19, but government officials there plan to be testing 14,000 people a day in coming weeks.

COVID-19 in Canada
Infogram

Henry said Saturday that plans will look different province to province because orders and bans were implemented at different times and under varying circumstances.

“If we look at what we have put in place and the orders and restrictions here in B.C., they have not been as draconian if you might say as some of the other places, so we also need to look at timing,” Henry said.

There are also still a number of concerns around ongoing outbreaks, within 20 long-term care homes across the province, as well as in three acute-care clinics, three poultry facilities and an oilsands project in northern Alberta implicating workers from B.C.

“It is a bit of a cautionary tale for us that we have seen these outbreaks in these poultry plants, for example,” Henry said. “That tells us that we need to make sure that we have the right safety measures in place in each different area of our economy to make sure that we can all be comforted and understand that we are opening up safely, slowly and methodically.”

B.C. must consider neighbours to the south, Henry says

Even as groups such as the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association get tasked with crafting potential plans on what re-opening certain industries could look like, one of the biggest threats to B.C.’s transmission rates is located south of the border.

“We are very close to a very large country that is having itself a very large outbreak,” Henry said. “As we know, early on, Washington state had a dramatic increase in cases that affected us quite dramatically here in B.C.”

Last week, Ottawa and White House officials agreed to extend the current border closure until roughly May 18, for now. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said travel restrictions will only be lifted when health officials determine it is absolutely safe to do so, President Donald Trump has motioned he would support re-opening the border to boost the economy.

ALSO READ: ‘A need to protect our citizens’: Many weeks away before U.S.-Canada border reopens, says Trudeau

On Monday, the B.C. government is expected to unveil its latest data on COVID-19 case modelling since expanding testing strategies to include more people who show symptoms related to the respiratory illness.

Horgan is also expected to unveil a multi-phase plan in how eased restrictions will be phased in. Henry said testing will be a vital piece in entering these stages, as well as contact tracing to accurately track community transmission of the disease.

It’s unclear how long the eased restrictions will last. Henry, backed by several other health officials in the country, have warned that daily life will include some social contact restrictions – which could be tightened again in the fall – until there is a vaccine.

ALSO READ: Should a vaccine for COVID-19 be made mandatory in Canada, once it’s created?


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Investigators are on the scene Tuesday (May 18) of a fatal motorcycle collision at Hallert and Bell roads on Matsqui Prairie in Abbotsford. (PHOTO: Shane MacKichan)
Motorcyclist, 64, killed in crash with SUV in Abbotsford

Collision took place Tuesday morning at Bell and Hallert roads

Thirteen-year-old Allison Hickman was last seen in Chilliwack May 14. (RCMP photo)
RCMP say missing Surrey teenager was last seen in Chilliwack

Allison Hickman was last seen in the downtown Chilliwack area on May 14

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Two small dogs were also discovered by the officer, one had died, and the other was taken by animal control and sent for veterinary care with the BC SPCA. (File Photo)
Body discovered in parked van in Mission with 2 dogs, 1 dead

Remains in state of decomposition, surviving dog sent for veterinary care with BC SPCA

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Cat who chases away coyote asked to join Port Moody, Vancouver police 

Caught on camera Friday, the black cat jumps out from under a parked car and runs the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit released a poster Tuesday, May 18 featuring the names and photos of more suspects involved in the Lower Mainland gang conflict.
Police issue warning for 8 more men involved in Lower Mainland gang conflict

B.C.’s gang task force says it’s expecting ‘violence to continue and escalate’

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Most Read